Borrowing against a 401(k): a very bad idea

×

As the threat of foreclosure continues to mount for many homeowners, the temptation to borrow against a 401(k) increases. Very bad idea, yet one that occurred to 13-19% more 401(k) holders in 2007. A recent article in CFO Magazine details a few of the ugly scenarios that can result.

Yes, many companies offer loan programs as part of their 401(k) programs as an incentive to get employees to participate. Employee loans against 401(k) balances are bad for both employers and employees. Not only is it a huge administrative headache for employers, but employees often get caught if their are any discrepancies or inaccuracies in the amortization schedule for repayment. Like the IRS will care that someone in the HR department made a mistake. The employee is solely responsible for any and all payback irregularities.

One of the advantages of participating in a 401(k) program is to take advantage of the free money from matching employer contributions as well as compound interest on contributions. Neither of these advantages occur when an employee stops making new contributions and merely repays the borrowed amount. Problems mount exponentially if an employee loses his or her job while owing money against the 401(k) balance. Just when the employee is most at financial risk, the outstanding amount must be repaid in full or the IRS will consider the loan or withdrawal as ordinary income and tax it accordingly. There is a 10% penalty if the borrower is under age 59 1/2.

The IRS does allow for hardship withdrawals from a 401(k) to avoid foreclosure of a primary residence, but the long term savings consequences are staggering. A 5 year, $8,200 loan can have a $62,000 impact on the 401(k) bottom line. Cutting expenses, renegotiating with creditors, getting a second job, are just a few of the much better alternatives for financially strapped homeowners.


Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Economics 101

Intro to economics. But fun.

View Course »

Timing Your Spending

How to pay less by changing when you purchase.

View Course »

TurboTax Articles

What is IRS Form 8824: Like-Kind Exchange

Ordinarily, when you sell something for more than what you paid to get it, you have a capital gain; when you sell it for less than what you paid, you have a capital loss. Both can affect your taxes. But if you immediately buy a similar property to replace the one you sold, the tax code calls that a "like-kind exchange," and it lets you delay some or all of the tax effects. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses Form 8824 for like-kind exchanges.

What are ABLE Accounts? Tax Benefits Explained

Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts allow the families of disabled young people to set aside money for their care in a way that earns special tax benefits. ABLE accounts work much like the so-called 529 accounts that families can use to save money for education; in fact, an ABLE account is really a special kind of 529.

What is IRS Form 8829: Expenses for Business Use of Your Home

One of the many benefits of working at home is that you can deduct legitimate expenses from your taxes. The downside is that since home office tax deductions are so easily abused, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tends to scrutinize them more closely than other parts of your tax return. However, if you are able to substantiate your home office deductions, you shouldn't be afraid to claim them. IRS Form 8829 helps you determine what you can and cannot claim.

What is IRS Form 8859: Carryforward of D.C. First-Time Homebuyer Credit

Form 8859 is a tax form that will never be used by the majority of taxpayers. However, if you live in the District of Columbia (D.C.), it could be the key to saving thousands of dollars on your taxes. While many first-time home purchasers in D.C. are entitled to a federal tax credit, Form 8859 calculates the amount of carry-forward credit you can use in future years, not the amount of your initial tax credit.

What is IRS Form 8379: Injured Spouse Allocation

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has the power to seize income tax refunds when a taxpayer owes certain debts, such as unpaid taxes or overdue child support. Sometimes, a married couple's joint tax refund will be seized because of a debt for which only one spouse is responsible. When that happens, the other spouse is said to be "injured" and can file Form 8379 to get at least some of the refund.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum